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Russia to Deliver S-300 Missile Defense Systems to Iran

Iran will receive the first shipments of the Russian S-300 PMU-1 air/missile defense systems next year (2008), an unidentified defense industry source told the Russian news agency Interfax. The Russian agency confirmed the Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Najjar quoted saying that Iran will soon receive the missiles, under a previously signed contract. Officially, the Russian federal service of military technical cooperation (FSMTS) denied the issue has been disclosed in Iran, or that such a contract has been signed, defining the the recent news as 'irrelevant'. However, the Russian newspaper Kommersant claimed the value of the S-300 sale is estimated at US$800 million. (More...)

The decision follows current Russian arms trade policy led by President Vladimir Putin, stressing Russian right to pursue opportunities regardless to US restrictions that effected Russian defense exports in recent years.

According to the Russian sources, the Iranians will receive five fire units of the the S-300 PMU-1 version, comprising 20 quad or twin launchers, supporting radars and command, control and communications systems. PMU-1 is the basic version offered by the Russians and, according to the Russian Kommersant daily newspaper, it is possible that the delivery will be made by withdrawing and modifying S-300s from active Russian Air Defense units. The PMU-1 is a relocatable system (towed by trucks) introduced in the early 1990s as an upgrade of the S-300 (SA-10) system, which replaced the SA-5 Gammon in Russian service in the 1980s. The PMU-1 upgrade was the first missile interceptor model of the SA-10, that represented the climax of the cold war, as these missiles provided the first defensive shield of Moscow. S-300 has become one of the most attractive defense export products, along with the Sukhoi Su-30 fighter and T-80 tank. Among the S-300 Operators are Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Bulgaria, Slovakia, China, Vietnam, Greece (transferred from Cyprus) and Algeria. Syria and Libya are also known to have the system on their wish list.

Further upgrades of the S-300 PMU-1 are the improved PMU-2 version (also known as Favorit or SA-20) this version is capable of intercepting aerodynamic targets at ranges up to 200 km. An equivalent, but all-terrain mobile system mounted on tracked chassis is the S-300V (equivalent of PMU-1) and the Antey 2500 system (S-300 VM or SA-23) - equivalent of the PMU-2 Favorit. All versions offer improved defense capability against aerodynamic and aero-ballistic targets, including aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles (fired from ranges of 2,500 km). These missiles are reportedly designed to operate against low-radar-cross-section targets, such as 'semi stealth' cruise missiles. Such characteristics are promising to provide the Iranians with defensive capability from potential Israeli threats, such as the Jericho II missiles, which reportedly have a range of 1,500 km. The missile defense footprint of all S-300 versions (PMU-1,2, S-300V or Antey 2500) is about 40 km. The S-300 has an effective anti-aircraft defense footprint of up to 200 km, dramatically increasing their air defense capability beyond current 'point defense' capabilities. Almaz-Antey is currently developing a further improved S-300 version called S-400 (S-300 PMU-3) designed as the next generation missile defense system. Most counries (apart from Russia) are using early models of S-300/S-300V variants. Vietnam and China are operating the the PMU-1 version while China aso deploy the PMU-2. Algeria is also interested in the system but according to Russian sources, the deal has not been finalized after recent setbacks in relations between Moscow and Algires.

This effect will introduce major limitation on the performance of potential cruise missile strikes such as the Tomahawk, JASSM or Storm Shadow. Furthermore, the acquisition of 'dozens' of S-300 systems, after the induction of TOR-1M into the Iranian air defense service hints of their capability to field an integrated air defense system based on the latest Russian doctrine, eying the TOR as the lower-tier defense, uses 'hard kill' against precision guided weapons fired from standoff range, beyond the SAM reach, enabling the long range SAM to maintain full operational capability even under intensive suppression by jamming and anti-radar missile attack.

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